Fourteen years have passed since we first sat at Snow Hall and learned that the 1st Battalion of the 158th Field Artillery regiment was being called up for service in Iraq. A lot has changed during that time, so let's take some time to catch up, this time with Blue Falcons manager Derek Baldwin.
Are you still in the 158? If, not when did you get out?
BALDWIN: I'm no longer in the 158, but I'm still in the military. When we returned from Iraq in 2006, they moved me around quite a bit, going from Duncan to Enid to Weatherford to Altus and then Frederick before moving on to Norman at the 45th IBTC. In June 2015, I got laid off from my civilian job (machinist). I ended up moving with my wife to a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, and I'm now in the Ohio Army National Guard's A Co. 237th.
What did you do post-deployment?
BALDWIN: I had just turned 22 in November so post-deployment I started my civilian career as a machinist at what used to be Richard's Manufacturing, just south of the Duncan armory. I bought a house there, too.
Where are your from and how did you make it into the 158?
BALDWIN: I'm from Duncan and joined the 158 when I was about to graduate high school and realized I hadn't set any goals in life.
Where do you live now?
BALDWIN: Aurora, Ohio.
What are your hobbies outside of FF?
BALDWIN: Anything my daughter wants to do, pretty much. Other than that, I play in an indoor soccer league, am learning to play the guitar, and have recently gotten into playing PS4 games.
What is your fantasy background? How long have you played FF? How many different leagues?
BALDWIN: I don't have much of a fantasy football background. I didn't know anything about it until 2015 when I joined the OIL. That's the only league I've played in.
How many championships have you won? How many have you finished second in?
BALDWIN: The closest I've come to a championship was finishing fifth in both 2016 and 2018.
What is your general strategy in FF?
BALDWIN: My strategy is simple: I play the guy with the highest-projected points unless something is telling me otherwise after checking the previous week's stats or FantasyPros or whatnot.
How much preparation do you do before each season?
BALDWIN: It wasn't until this season that I realized that, if I want anything higher than fifth place (and I do,), then I need to do a lot more following the draft and see whose being talked about the most what their stats are.
Do you find you draft better at the cabin with the guys or at home online?
BALDWIN: I unfortunately I have not been able to make it to the cabin for the draft, but I'd like to.
Will you be at the draft cabin next year?
BALDWIN: I will do my best to be there this year. I have some changes happening in my life that could potentially help me be at the cabin but, oddly enough, those changes could also keep me from going as well.
What is the best move you've made in FF?
BALDWIN: My best move most certainly would be drafting Patrick Mahomes in the 12th round this year and drafting Alvin Kamara in the 12th round in 2017.
What is your favorite FF memory? What is the pinnacle of your FF career?
BALDWIN: The 2018 season had been my pinnacle and my most favorite memory simply because I feel like I'm growing and learning and this season was the best example of that.
Man, what a week in the OIL. In both the NFC and PFC, the top four teams all lost. Winless DominationStation gave undefeated SoonerJack their first loss of the season, meaning each OIL team has at least one loss. And the Nightmares continued their nightmare of a season, falling to 0-7 . . . the OIL's only remaining winless squad. Here are your games of the week (click on title to be taken to the matchup page on Yahoo!).
This is a rematch of last year's Thunder Bowl, when Zerger and the Redlegs defeated Green's Doughboys to win their first championship. It's fitting then that Zerger comes in ranked higher than Green. The Redlegs are built for this league, boasting the top two WRs in the OIL, the top pass-catching RB in Chris Thompson, and steady RB Mark Ingram. The Doughboys are built more for a standard league with RBs dominating the early draft rounds. I'm picking Zerger to continue his resurgence and move closer to a playoff berth (and perhaps first-round bye).
On paper, this looks like an easy Vandals victory. Lutonsky is ranked first in the PFC, averages 14 more points per game than Tadlock, and has a greater OPR. But the Vandals are dealing with six byes this week, so I'm picking them to lose their second-straight game (and fall out of first place).
This matchup will greatly affect each team's chances at securing a playoff berth in Week 14. Each team is 4-3 and right on the playoff bubble. But Baldwin's Roughnecks have already lost Odell Beckham for the season, Martavis Bryant to stupidity, and Leonard Fournette to a bye week. Meanwhile, Henderson's DARC NARCS, after a couple suspension scares, still have RB Ezekiel Elliott to lean on, along with RB Melvin Gordon and breakout QB Carson Wentz. Look for Henderson to make a statement as we get closer and closer to the playoffs.
Yancy Baldwin joined the OIL in 2011, when his Reapers franchise moved over from the now-defunct Man's Game League (MGL). His OIL career started with two playoff appearances and a 19-10 record, but it's been all downhill from there, going 20-32 over the next four seasons. However, in terms of points scored, the past four seasons have been even better than Baldwin's first two, when he averaged 1,700.85 points per season. For example, Baldwin scored 1,766.35 points in 2012 and finished 10-3. But, in 2016, even though he scored more points (1,783.00) than in 2012, he went a mirror image 3-10.
The difference? Besides changing his name from Reapers to Roughnecks, his opponents averaged just 120.94 points per game in 2012. In 2016? 147.15. That'll do it.
Blue Falcons manager Derek Baldwin has been in the OIL for two seasons, but already ranks in the top 11 for average points per game (142.84). Baldwin had the misfortune of 1. being born after Yancy Baldwin; 2. having the last name Baldwin; 3. being physically smaller than Yancy Baldwin; and 4. joining the same Army National Guard unit as Yancy Baldwin. Thus, he'll forever be referred to as "Little Baldwin."
Lil B finished one game away from a winning season in 2015 before making the playoffs at 7-6 in 2016. Can he make the jump and win a playoff game in 2017?
Derek Baldwin's Blue Falcons have unveiled their uniforms. They're number one because blue falcons always look out for number one.
Yancy Baldwin joined the OIL in 2011, although he was on the original Iraq mission with the rest of the OIL members and competed in the DBFA's MGL before that. Since he joined the OIL, his franchise has gone by Reapers. But, with the recent re-brand of Dead Again, it became clear the two franchises were too closely-linked: they shared a common theme (death) and a common color scheme (Raiders-esque silver and black). OIL commissioner Cliburn asked Baldwin if he'd be willing to re-brand his franchise as Roughnecks, and he agreed.
Roughnecks makes sense. Baldwin, like so many Oklahomans, makes his living in the oil and gas industry. The commissioner posted an entire article about why, should an NFL team ever move to Oklahoma City, it should be named Roughnecks. In this case, we decided on a color scheme of old gold and black. Oil is black gold, after all. And no one else in the OIL uses that color scheme. The result is a fantastic look that will stand the test of time. Gone are the silver and black uniforms Baldwin tolerated more than he liked.
The new logo is a black oil derrick set against the golden sky at dusk . . . an iconic image in oil country. The shape surrounding the oil derrick symbolizes both the flare of a natural gas well and a drop of crude oil, and below the derrick is another natural gas flare.
The primary helmet is black like the night sky. Set against the helmet's dark background, the flame at the base of the logo represents the flares on the Oklahoma horizon that signify, no matter the time of night, roughnecks are working hard to ensure we have energy.
The jerseys feature "arms" on the chest to represent the arms of oil rigs that continuously pump oil from the ground of Oklahoma and beyond. The oil derrick logo is proudly displayed on each sleeve, and "ROUGHNECKS" is displayed across the front. The pants striping on each uniform matches its respective helmet. The alternate uniform has "BLACKGOLD" printed inside the collar. It features the black logo on the black helmet with no striping. The numbers are black with gold trim.
Three more OIL franchises unveiled full uniform sets today. Duffy's Hangovers, Baldwin's Reapers, and Bruesch's two-time champion SoonerJack each have their uniform sets displayed on their manager pages. Uniforms for Pyle's original champion Lucky Enuf and Jessen's DominationStation will be unveiled shortly.
Morgan's 2007 champion Whackers and Cobb's 2013 champion Dogs of War will each release new uniforms in the near future as well.
Yancy Baldwin's Reapers now have a uniform to call their own. It was designed by a user at Fiverr. The uniform is inspired by the existing Reapers logo, the Oakland Raiders and the slicing-and-dicing of the Reaper's weapon of choice.
It is hard to believe that we just finished the eighth season of OklahomIraqis football, but it's true. 2013 was a big year for the OIL in both positive and negative ways. Here is a sampling of the 2013 OIL year in review:
In 2013, we updated our web site, road-tripped to an NFL game together, crowned a new champion, helped a league member regroup after losing his house to a tornado, gave up the DBFA trophy earned in 2012, had children, moved out-of-state, toured Lambeau Field, got a new license plate, established our 2014 draft order, saw one of our own get promoted to First Sergeant, and lost two friends and brothers-in-arms: Brandon Landrum and Joseph Killman.
Congratulations to Aaron Cobb, whose "Dogs of War" won their first OIL championship. The Harrington Trophy now resides in Fort Smith with Cobb, who was in Baghdad with the original OIL members in 2006 and joined the league in 2007. He defeated Cliburn, who tried and failed to be the first back-to-back champion in the OIL.
Unfortunately, Cobb could not win the World War, so the OIL lost the DBFA's Trophy of Versailles. But the team Cobb had in week 17 wasn't the same one that dominated much of the season, though. By that time, Cobb was without Arian Foster, Wes Welker, Jermichael Finley, and Steve Smith. Still, he is happy just winning the OIL.
Co-commissioner Adam Duffy claimed the number one seed but fell flat in the semifinals. And then Justin Finch beat him in the third-place game. Tough break.
In May, two-time OIL champion Jack Bruesch lost his house in the Moore tornado that gained worldwide attention. Fortunately, he and his family were uninjured. OIL members and more came together to help in any way we could. He now lives in Norman and is grateful that his family is okay.
On a lighter note, it is a good thing that Cliburn won the OIL and DBFA trophies back from Bruesch in 2012. Otherwise, those trophies would have been lost in the tornado rubble.
The OIL site sold "Oklahoma Original" hats for tornado relief after the storms and raised money for the American Red Cross. The hats were modeled after the original Oklahoma state flag. Some hats are still available for purchase.
In November, Yancy Baldwin, Justin Finch, Aaron Cobb, and Justin Cliburn went to the Cowboys-Vikings game together. It was the second straight year for an NFL trip among the guys, and they had a great time. Even sitting in the "nosebleed" section, the experience was fantastic. There really are no bad seats at "JerryWorld."
Start thinking now about which game we should attend for our next NFL excursion. The Cowboys play the usual NFC East opponents at home next season, plus Arizona, San Francisco, Houston, Indianapolis, and New Orleans. Perhaps in future seasons we can expand our footprint and go to a different stadium, but Dallas is closest to most of the league.
And the OIL family grew when 28.5% of the league had a baby in the last 53 weeks. Three league members' new babies were born in 2013 and one member had a son born just before 2013 began. Colt James Baldwin was born on Dec. 22, 2012. While his birth did not technically happen in 2013, it did occur between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Colt just turned one and lives in Stratford with Yancy and his family.
Jessen's daughter (left) was born in Duncan and has been sporting her favorite outfit since day one: her DominationStation onesie (it's unclear if Mrs. Jessen shares the love for fantasy football-themed infant clothing). Cali's quickly becoming Jessen's biggest fan.
The other new additions to the OIL family were born far away from Oklahoma [insert your own opinion as to whether that is a good thing or a bad thing here].
2013 was the first season Duffy spent in his new home. After living in Lawton-Fort Sill for 20+ years, Duff moved to his family's hometown in Wisconsin. The Commish and Mrs. Commish visited the Duffies' new home in July.
The Commish, Duffy, and Duffy's father and brothers toured Lambeau Field and watched the Packers practice. It was the first time the Commish went to an NFL training camp. It also marked the first time that he had to wear a hoodie in July. Not cool, Wisconsin.
On a more somber note, 2013 was also the year that we buried friends and brothers-in-arms. 1LT Brandon Landrum died in May from an IED explosion in Afghanistan. Members of the OIL knew him as SPC Landrum.
He was a medic and spent 2008 in Iraq with the 158. He went to the same high school and college as the commissioner and was active duty when he died. He trained with co-commissioner Adam Duffy at a "war fighter" exercise. He made us laugh at Camp Gruber. He'll be missed.
Joseph Killman died in December. He was in the 158 with all of us. He was in Jack Bruesch's and Cliburn's squad during the tour that gave birth to the OIL. He was funny, tough, and reliable. His death reminded us all how much we care about and miss each other.
Even in death, Killman brought us together. At least 50 members of the 158, both past and present, attended his funeral. It was great seeing everyone that day, but the circumstances were awful. We shared stories about him and laughed and smiled. LT (now CPT) Ponder created a Facebook group for guys on that 1-158 SECFOR mission. Hopefully, we keep that group going and see each other again without someone dying.
It's a shame we don't see each other more often. This league is how most of us keep in touch with each other. I hope that going forward we can organize more NFL game trips together and get more managers at our draft parties. We owe it to ourselves and to each other to stay in touch. Let's do that.
Just before the new year, OklahomIraqi Jack Bruesch was promoted to First Sergeant. He was Cliburn's squad leader in Iraq in 2006.
Congratulations to the two-time OIL champion, good guy, and great NCO. We're proud of him.
In the last year, we also added names to our membership's waiting list. Adam Schuster remains at the top of that list. If someone should leave the league, he is next in line for OIL membership. He was in Iraq with the 158 during the 2006 season, and he spent 2008 in Iraq with the 158 as well.
Next in line is Stephen Brosh, who was Cliburn's roommate in Baghdad and who was also in Bruesch's squad that year. Nick Reed has thrown his hat in the ring as well. He was also on the 2006 mission with the original 10. They are all deserving candidates, but they'll have to wait their turn. As of right now, they're "on deck."
After eight seasons, our league settings are pretty well-settled. But there is always room for improvement. Beginning in 2014, the OIL will re-seed its playoff teams after the first round. Our league has always said that we reward success. In that vein, the number one seed should play the lowest-seeded team in the semifinals no matter what. The number one seed in our league receives a first-round bye and now will also be guaranteed a matchup with the lowest-seeded team in the semifinals, giving that team the easiest road to the championship.
Our league is special. I know that every fantasy football player thinks his or her league is the best, but ours really is different. You know why.
Our league was born in Baghdad. It represents more than fake football. All 14 members of our league were in the Army. All but one served in the 1st Bn. 158 FA. Twelve of us were in Iraq together in 2006.
The two that were not on that mission with us have been valuable members of the OIL. Few realize that Trovillo was responsible for creating the first OIL web site via the Weebly platform. That platform is still in use and has evolved to the site you see today. He was instrumental behind the scenes turning the OIL into a true community, and he has a great team name and logo too. Rogers is always involved, has one of the best team names and logos in the league, and maintains a fierce rivalry with Jessen. We have a website, a Twitter (@okiraqi), a Facebook group, a traveling trophy, a rivalry week, a league store, and a bond bigger than football.
I enjoy serving as your commissioner, and I look forward to 2014. Happy new year, guys. Hopefully this year won't be nearly as eventful.